interview by Tara Maher
I carried a watermelon. I mean my interview is a watermelon. That’s not right. Let me explain. You know that scene in Dirty Dancing when Baby Houseman helps Johnny Castle’s cousin bring refreshments up to the barn where all the camp tramps are dancing and getting pregnant and Johnny swoops in and grinds the innocence out of her? Remember the first thing she said to him? “I carried a watermelon.” So taken aback was she by his open to the navel shirt, his sweaty confidence, his tight ballroom-dancer-pants that all she could muster was a simple non sequitur. Well, imagine two iconic TV and film stars from the 80s and 90s are in ballroom-dancer-pants and now this pop culture nerd has to learn the Cha-Cha in a week because Penny is recovering from her botched abortion. Wait. That’s not right either. I’ll just get down to it. I hope you enjoy.
(key visual reference:)
BYT sent me to the Four Seasons in Georgetown to have a roundtable interview with Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved by the Bell, NYPD Blue) and Breckin Meyer (Clueless, Robot Chicken) alongside three other mid-Atlantic blogger/journalists. Gosselaar and Meyer were in DC promoting their new legal dramedy Franklin and Bash premiering tonight on TNT (9/8c). The two title characters Jared Franklin (Meyer) and Peter Bash (Gosselaar) are ambulance chaser lawyer types that win their cases via unorthodox courtroom methods and youthful gumption. Outside of the office they also happen to be brosefs living in a tricked out “man cave” fully equipped with a Jacuzzi and one of those fridges that always has an amazing selection of beverages. The elite law firm, Infeld Daniels, has hired the pair to shake up the way dispassionate big law does business. The series also stars film veteran and all around question mark Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Entourage). McDowell plays Stanton Infeld, the intimidating head of the firm that hires the pair.
Gosselaar and Meyer arrive on time after spending the afternoon walking around Georgetown. They look a little weary as this DC stop is at the latter part of their cross-country press junket but they are all smiles for the four of us nerds as they shake our hands and take a seat at the small lounge table. I am a little dumbfounded. I was expecting maybe a little ‘tude but these guys are really personable. This ruins every thing for me. I have all these weirdo superfan questions and now I’m totally self-conscious. My notes turn blurry and all I see are watermelons.
I’ve pulled together the highlights of our brief Q&A.
- On how the studio knew they would work as pair:
Breckin Meyer [BM]: We did a screen test. He already had the gig if he wanted it and it was me and two other actors he read with and obviously if we didn’t have any rapport at all they’d be like meh. But for some reason we both gave each other a hug before we started and Bill Chase our co-creator was like “that’s when we knew.”
- On improvising during takes:
Mark-Paul Gosselaar [MPG]: Credit goes to the writers. We just round the edges off.
BYT: I know that Fred Willard [guest stars on one of the episodes]. He’s a great improvisor.
MPG: But he didn’t.
BM: No, actually Fred didn’t [improvise] at all. Honestly the stuff we do is a little of the friendship banter. We might just riff off the foundation of what [the writers] started. For example, [our characters] talking about, “Which girl would you rather?” kinda thing with Scarlett Johansson. In the script it was Taylor Swift and we both were like “I feel dirty”. Let’s change it up. So we did a bunch of different [female celebrity] names during the day.
- On how they both have survived a 20 plus year career in Hollywood:
BYT: How did you escape the usual trappings of early fame and having a really crazy job at such an early age?
MPG: I don’t know. I really don’t. We just worked with James Van Der Beek and there’s another example. We just worked with Fred Savage. I’m just saying it because they’re on our show. Fred Savage directed the one [episode] with Jason Alexander so it’s nice to see your peers grow up and you don’t have to visit them in rehab.
BM: But it surprises me more that Mark-Paul is not like a “Behind the Music”. You know what I mean? Because of how big Saved by the Bell was when it was [on originally] and then when it got even bigger because it was on every day. I remember when it was original airings and then I remember when it really blew up because it was just omnipresent. It was that and Wings at night. Those were the only shows on for all eternity. And that’s the place where you can see someone getting pigeonholed really easily.
- About bringing up the past:
BM: [P]art of the reason we can goof off about Clueless and Saved by the Bell is because we’ve worked since then. So it’s not like we can’t have a sense of humor about it. Those are the people that liked your stuff. That’s the reason why it was successful. Hopefully they’ll come and watch this show if we’re lucky.
MPG: It’s like a band. We’re a band that doesn’t mind playing the oldies. We want you to watch. We want you to buy our new stuff. But we’re not afraid of what we’ve done in the past.
BM: If we didn’t keep working it’d be harder. Because then you’d feel like that’s all you’re known as. It runs the gamut. I mean if [Mark-Paul] runs into a dude who’s over 35 I’ll say they’d usually say [what he’s know for] NYPD Blue or if they’re under they’ll say Saved by the Bell. If it’s me and it’s a kid, it’s Garfield [or] older it’s Road Trip. [B]asically we take the work serious but not each other.
- On Malcolm McDowell:
BM: He is everything you would want Malcolm McDowell to be. I mean he is exactly what you would want him to be. He’s crazy. He’s funny.
MPG: Except he’s not drunk anymore.
BM: No, he doesn’t drink anymore. He’s crazy. He’s funny. He’s intense and goofy. It’s everything. So much fun. We were saying if –not worried-anybody had a right to be a diva on set – we were thinking it’d be Malcs. And he showed up- he was just so much fun. Just like us, he shows up knowing his stuff ready to have fun.
MPG: Well we always threaten him. If he wasn’t going to work out we’ll get Terrence Stamp.
BYT: Did you tell him that the Robot Chicken calipers were an homage to A Clockwork Orange?
BM: Oh yeah! He’s actually been on the show. Malcs was on our Star Wars specials that we do with George. Malcs has been on two of them.
BYT: Oh wow. That’s great.
BM: It’s funny. Malcolm who’s done- he’s 285 years old. He’s done a thousand movies. And I told him I was going off to write some Robot Chicken stuff. This guy’s a legend and he says to me (impersonating Malcolm), “Write me something. I need a job!”
Here are some of my weirdo superfan questions that didn’t make it into the interview:
- You both were on episodes of The Wonder Years, do you think it’s ironic that Screech is the one with a sex tape and Winnie Cooper wrote a book about math?
- Did Tiffani Amber Theissen smell like Coco butter and Tropical Punch Bubbalicious?
- Unicorns vs ninjas? Who wins?
- How many times have either of you gotten food poisoning from prop food?
- Can I have a hug?